ESTATE PLANNING FOR BLENDED FAMILIES

Nobody gets married with the intention of getting divorced. However, the reality is that half of marriages will end in divorce, often with children involved. A parent will remarry, and often the new spouse will also have children of their own from a previous marriage, making a new family entity. The blended family of “mine, yours, and ours” is now a reality for many families. Consider these statistics:

  • About seventy-five percent (75%) of people who are divorced will remarry.
  • Approximately forty-three percent (43%) all marriages are remarriages for at least one spouse.
  • About sixty-five percent (65%) of remarriages involve children from a previous marriage and result in blended families.
  • Around sixty percent (60%) of remarriages end in another divorce.

The Need to Balance the Interests of Blended Family Members

Oftentimes, each spouse of a marriage brings children and assets from a previous marriage. One of the many challenges of a blended family is creating a new estate plan that includes all family members. Creating an estate plan that balances the needs of your family from a previous relationship, your spouse’s needs and your spouse’s children from a previous relationship. Clarifying and understanding these goals can be daunting, even before implementation of the estate plan. Working with a Florida estate planning attorney who regularly works with blended families to guide you through the process can help alleviate some of the stress of your family’s future.

Inheritance Issues That Can Arise in Blended Families

Quite often, remarried spouses want to ensure that some or all of their assets will be inherited by their respective children from a prior marriage but are conflicted with the desire to leave their subsequent spouse with assets as well. Take into consideration the following scenario that can lead to unintended consequences:

  • Spouse A divorces from first spouse, and they share children.
  • Spouse B divorces from first spouse, and they share children.
  • Spouse A and Spouse B remarry
  • Spouse A dies

Under this scenario, half of Spouse A’s assets will automatically be inherited by Spouse B and the other half will be inherited by Spouse A’s children, regardless of the length of the marriage between Spouse A and Spouse B. Of further concern, imagine that Spouse B dies four months after Spouse A. This would result in all of Spouse B’s assets being distributed to Spouse B’s children, including the one-half inheritance of Spouse A’s estate. This means that half of Spouse A’s estate was effectively inherited by Spouse B’s children upon Spouse B’s passing.

Many individuals who enter into their second marriages do not wish for this scenario to be a possibility, yet do not know how to prevent its occurrence. With over 30 combined years of estate planning experience, the skilled attorneys at the law firm of Gorman & Jones, PLC will be able to create your estate plan with your specific goals in mind. Contact our Tampa, Florida office today at (813) 856-5625 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Using Trusts in Estate Planning for Blended Families

As stated above, many blended families will enter into second marriages with assets and children from prior marriages. Consequently, many individuals would like to protect what they have earned and secure the future for their respective children from a prior marriage. A useful tool in facilitating this goal is a Trust.

A Trust can be created to hold assets on the behalf of a beneficiary and will specify exactly how the Trust’s assets will be distributed to the beneficiary. Using a Trust will allow one parent the ability to set aside and designate assets from a prior marriage, even before remarriage is considered. Additionally, there are multiple types of Trusts that can be created to help ensure assets are protected for children from a prior marriage, such as:

  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT): ILITs are created with the intention to hold a life insurance policy and provide the proceeds to the beneficiaries named in the Trust when the insured party dies. This means that a parent who remarries (or a single person wishing to have their separate assets to go family members) will be able to ensure that the proceeds of a life insurance policy will be distributed to his or her children. This type of Trust will also allow the Trustor to designate exactly how the proceeds will be distributed, such as limiting distributions over a period of years or at certain ages.
  • Bypass Trusts: Bypass Trusts allow the surviving spouse to receive income from the Trust during their lifetime, but preserves the deceased spouse’s ability to control the distributions to their children. This means that a parent will be able to still provide for their subsequent spouse while ensuring that their children are provided for upon their surviving spouse’s passing.

The experienced estate planning attorneys at the law firm of Gorman & Jones, PLC have the knowledge to create an estate plan to reflect the needs of blended families while considering each family’s specific needs. Contact our Tampa, Florida office today at (813) 856-5625 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Tampa Bay Area Estate Planning Lawyers

At the Tampa, Florida law firm of Gorman & Jones, PLC, our lawyers are well experienced in estate planning for blended families. When your blended family needs an estate plan that reflects your new family needs, we will help you update your estate plan or create a new one that better reflects the needs of your new family. By ensuring that the estate plan is set up to include your spouse and your step-children, we can help you avoid inadvertently excluding or disinheriting anyone, and avoid future conflict in the family.

The personal attention of the attorneys at Gorman & Jones, PLC will work with you to fully understand and determine your personal desires for the distribution of your assets and will devise strategies to meet your unique goals. Insurance policies or retirement accounts will also be reviewed to ensure you have named beneficiaries reflecting your new family situation, as this is one area that is often overlooked following a divorce.

Legal Estate Planning Services Can Help Protect Your Children

With over 30 years of combined experience in estates, trusts and related law, Gorman & Jones, PLC has honed our skills to bring you a full range of estate planning services including wills, trusts, beneficiary accounts, guardianships, conservatorships, and more as part of a plan that will fairly distribute your assets, and those of your spouse in a manner that is equitable for all concerned in a blended family.

Call Gorman & Jones, PLC at (813) 856-5625 today to arrange a time to come in and talk to us about estate planning with blended families.

FAQs

Q: I recently remarried, and my new wife has a daughter from a previous marriage who I consider to be my own. I even refer to her as my own daughter to our friends and family members, even though I did not legally adopt her. I’m still thinking about setting up a Trust or a Last Will and Testament, but if I were to die without one, would my wife’s daughter be an heir of my Estate since I’m married to her mother?
A: No. Under Florida law, your heirs must be blood-related or legally adopted by you. This means that, as of your current familial status, your step-daughter is not considered to be one of your heirs upon your passing even though you are married to her mother. If you would like to ensure that she would receive a portion of your Estate upon your passing, you must either legally adopt her, or create a Last Will and Testament or a Trust which names her as a beneficiary.

Q: I recently learned that I’m inheriting a large sum of money from my father’s Estate due to his passing earlier this year. I am also recently remarried and have two children from my first marriage. My new wife and I only have one bank account and I’m thinking about placing my inheritance in that account until I figure out how I want to invest it. I heard that inherited money is protected from divorce, so would my inheritance be protected under this plan?
A: No, it would lose its protection. Inherited assets are sole and separate property under Florida law. This means that a divorcing spouse cannot collect any of the inherited assets. However, sole and separate property can lose its character as separate property as soon as it is commingled with marital (also known as community) property, such as a joint bank account with a spouse. To keep its character as separate property, you would need to open an account in your name, alone, and deposit the inherited assets into that account in the interim before you choose how you would like to invest those assets.

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